Bridgetymology: Jeans

LET’S LIGHTEN THINGS UP A BIT AND TALK ABOUT SOMETHING FUN – JEANS! YES, JEANS. AND I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT GENETICS GENES, I’M TALKING PANTS.

YOU CAN’T REALLY THINK ABOUT FASHION WITHOUT JEANS. JEANS HAVE BEEN A HUGE PART OF GROWING UP. FROM KIDS TO TEENAGERS TO ADULTHOOD, THERE’S A STYLE OF JEANS THAT FITS EVERY CRITERIA. AND THROUGHOUT TIME, IT HAS CONTINUED TO EVOLVE TO FIT EVERY GENERATION’S STYLE.

TODAY, I DECIDED THAT WE SHOULD NOT ONLY FEEL FREE TO WEAR THE PANTS, BUT UNDERSTAND WHERE THEY CAME FROM, AND SOUND VERY CLEVER AT A PARTY WHEN WE CAN EXPLAIN SUCH THINGS.

HERE AT BRIDGET, WE’RE HUGE FANS OF EXPANDING OUR VOCABULARY AND BECOMING BETTER COMMUNICATORS. THAT IS WHY TODAY, ASHA BREAKS DOWN THE WORD ‘JEANS’.

define jeans

WHEN YOU LOOK UP JEANS IN MERRIAM WEBSTER, IT SIMPLY SAYS “PANTS MADE OF DENIM.” DENIM IS DEFINED AS A “FIRM, DURABLE, TWILLED, USUALLY COTTON, FABRIC WOVEN WITH COLORED WARP AND WHITE FILLING THREADS. ANOTHER DICTIONARY DEFINITION EXPANDS JEANS TO INCLUDE PANTS OR TROUSERS MADE OF DENIM, OR DUNGAREE– A SIMILAR COARSE, THICK CALICO CLOTH.

jeans broken down

WE CAN’T THINK OF JEANS WITHOUT ASSOCIATING IT WITH LEVI’S IN MIND. WE TYPICALLY THINK OF THE PARTICULAR STYLE OF BLUE JEANS, WHICH WERE INVENTED BY  JACOB W. DAVIS IN PARTNERSHIP WITH LEVI STRAUSS & CO IN 1871 .

LEVI STRAUSS, AS A YOUNG MAN IN 1851, WENT FROM GERMANY TO NEW YORK TO JOIN HIS OLDER BROTHERS WHO RAN A GOODS STORE. IN 1853, HE MOVED TO SAN FRANCISCO TO OPEN HIS OWN DRY GOODS BUSINESS. JACOB DAVIS WAS A TAILOR WHO OFTEN BOUGHT BOLTS OF CLOTH FROM THE LEVI STRAUSS & CO. WHOLESALE HOUSE. IN 1872, DAVIS WROTE TO STRAUSS ASKING TO PARTNER WITH HIM TO PATENT AND SELL CLOTHING REINFORCED WITH RIVETS. THEIR COPPER RIVETS WERE TO REINFORCE THE POINTS OF STRESS, SUCH AS POCKET CORNERS AND AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BUTTON FLY. INITIALLY, THE LEVI STRAUSS JEANS WERE WORN BY FACTORY WORKERS, MINERS, FARMERS, AND CATTLEMEN THROUGHOUT THE NORTH AMERICAN WEST.

WHEN LEVI STRAUSS & CO. PATENTED THE MODERN, MASS-PRODUCED PROTOTYPE IN THE YEAR 1873, THERE WERE TWO POCKETS IN THE FRONT AND ONE ON THE BACK RIGHT WITH COPPER RIVETS.THE SMALL RIVETED WATCH POCKET WAS FIRST ADDED BY LEVI STRAUSS TO THEIR JEANS IN THE LATE 1870S. IN 1901 LEVI STRAUSS ADDED THE BACK LEFT POCKET TO THEIR 501 MODEL. THIS CREATED THE NOW INDUSTRY STANDARD FIVE POCKET CONFIGURATION WITH TWO LARGE POCKETS AND A SMALL WATCH POCKET IN FRONT WITH TWO POCKETS ON THE REAR.

MODERN JEANS WERE POPULARIZED AS CASUAL WEAR BY MARLON BRANDO AND JAMES DEAN IN THEIR 1950S FILMS, PARTICULARLY THE WILD ONE AND REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, LEADING TO THE FABRIC BECOMING A SYMBOL OF REBELLION AMONG TEENAGERS, ESPECIALLY MEMBERS OF THE GREASER SUBCULTURE.

the etymology of jeans

BUT PRIOR TO THE LEVI STRAUSS PATENT, “BLUE JEAN” MATERIAL HAD BEEN LONG IN USE FOR VARIOUS CLOTHING GARMENTS.

RESEARCH ON THE TRADE OF JEAN FABRIC SHOWS THAT IT EMERGED IN THE CITIES OF GENOA, ITALY, AND NÎMES, FRANCE. GÊNES, THE FRENCH WORD FOR GENOA, MAY BE THE ORIGIN OF THE WORD “JEANS”. IN NÎMES, WEAVERS TRIED TO REPRODUCE JEAN FABRIC BUT INSTEAD DEVELOPED A SIMILAR TWILL FABRIC THAT BECAME KNOWN AS DENIM, “DE NÎMES” , MEANING “FROM NÎMES”.

GENOA’S JEAN FABRIC WAS A TEXTILE OF “MEDIUM QUALITY AND OF REASONABLE COST” AND THE GENOESE NAVY EQUIPPED ITS SAILORS WITH JEANS, AS THEY NEEDED A FABRIC WHICH COULD BE WORN WET OR DRY. HARD TO IMAGINE COMFORTABLE WET JEANS, AS A PERSON WHO HAS DEEPLY REGRETTED GOING ON SPLASH MOUNTAIN AT DISNEYLAND ON A COLD DAY, BUT AGAIN WE ARE TALKING ABOUT THE OG JEANS.

NÎMES’S “DENIM” WAS COARSER, CONSIDERED HIGHER QUALITY, AND WAS USED “FOR OVER GARMENTS SUCH AS SMOCKS OR OVERALLS”. THE INDIGO USED FOR DYEING CAME FROM INDIGO BUSH PLANTATIONS IN INDIA UNTIL THE LATE 19TH CENTURY. IT WAS REPLACED BY INDIGO SYNTHESIS METHODS DEVELOPED IN GERMANY.

ALSO, HAVE YOU EVER ALSO HEARD THE TERM DUNGAREES WHEN REFERRING TO JEANS? THE TERM DUNGAREE WAS MENTIONED FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE 17TH CENTURY, WHEN IT WAS REFERRED TO AS CHEAP, COARSE THICK COTTON CLOTH, OFTEN COLORED BLUE BUT SOMETIMES WHITE, WORN BY IMPOVERISHED PEOPLE IN WHAT WAS THEN A REGION OF BOMBAY, INDIA A DOCKSIDE VILLAGE CALLED DONGRI. THIS CLOTH WAS “DUNGRI” IN HINDI. DUNGRI WAS EXPORTED TO ENGLAND AND USED FOR MANUFACTURING OF CHEAP, ROBUST WORKING CLOTHES. IN ENGLISH, THE WORD “DUNGRI” BECAME PRONOUNCED AS “DUNGAREE”.

SO THERE YOU HAVE IT! A THREE-FER ETYMOLOGY! THE ORIGINS OF JEANS, DENIM AND DUNGAREES ARE ALL TIED TO THE PLACES WHERE THEY WERE ORIGINALLY CREATED!

fun fact

DO YOU KNOW HOW YOUR FAVORITE PAIR OF JEANS JUST SEEMS TO GET BETTER AND BETTER THE MORE YOU WEAR THEM? THERE’S AN ENVIRONMENTAL REASON TO HOLD ON TO YOUR BELOVED DENIM. DID YOU KNOW THAT A TYPICAL PAIR OF BLUE JEANS USES 919 US GALLONS OF WATER DURING ITS LIFE CYCLE? THIS INCLUDES THE WATER TO IRRIGATE THE COTTON CROP, MANUFACTURE THE JEANS, AND THE NUMEROUS WASHES BY THE CONSUMER. MORE AND MORE COMPANIES ARE FINDING WAYS TO RECYCLE TEXTILES INCLUDING DENIM, ENCOURAGING THE PROMOTION OF THE CONCEPT OF FEWER, BETTER THINGS RATHER THAN WASTEFUL FAST FASHION PRACTICES. IF THIS IS INTERESTING TO YOU, BE SURE TO CHECK OUT EPISODE 4 OF MEET BRIDGET, WHERE WE INTERVIEW FASHION DESIGNER AND SUSTAINABILITY ADVOCATE RACHEL PALLY!

perspective

THERE’S NO DOUBT ABOUT IT: JEANS HAVE BECOME A VERSATILE ITEM THAT MOST OF US HAVE. NO MATTER WHEN YOU WEAR THEM, WHERE YOU WEAR THEM, OR HOW YOU WEAR THEM, THERE ARE A PAIR OF JEANS TO FIT NEARLY EVERY MOOD AND OCCASION. IT’S NO WONDER THAT IT HAS BECOME AN ESSENTIAL PART OF OUR WARDROBE.

AND SINCE ITS BIRTH, IT HAS EVOLVED AND FIT EVERY GENERATION’S FASHION TRENDS. JEANS WILL NEVER GO OUT OF STYLE, IT WILL JUST WORK ITS WAY TO THE PRESENT TREND AND EVEN BRING BACK THE OLD TRENDS. JEANS HAVE MADE THEIR WAY INTO OUR EVERYDAY LIFESTYLE AND IT’S HERE TO STAY.

Resources

  • CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT EPISODE 4 OF MEET BRIDGET,WHERE WE INTERVIEW RACHEL PALLY.

      ●    VISIT MEET BRIDGET FOR MORE INFO

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